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It's easy to go along with the commercial aspects of Easter- 

But what can I do with my family to focus on its real meaning?

Yes, those Easter eggs have symbolism, but I want to go beyond that.  Usually we have a Family Home Evening the Monday before Easter, where we read the Easter story in the New Testament, and talk about the symbols we see this time of year- eggs for the seemingly lifeless tomb, chicks for new life, lambs for The Lamb of God who was their Passover.  But this year I wanted something each day for a week, something to learn and remember what our Savior did during his final week in mortality.  Something to help pull us into his life.

The April 2011 Friend magazine had something I'll use this year.  If you follow their suggested timeline, that begins today, two Saturdays before Easter itself.   Here's a quick day-by-day summary of it and some ideas of what to do each day; see the original article for more details.  

Our standard day starts with a song and family prayer (playing the 'hymn of the week' is the call to be awake and in the living room- it sure beats hollering down the stairs every day!)- we can have a new song each day this Easter week, to fit with the timeline below.  We sing the same song in the evening right before that family prayer, as well.  (If -WHEN!- someone is still talking or not kneeling, we sing the last phrase over again.  This is repeated until they're ready.  Usually it takes only once.  Except for some nights.   Again, it sure beats telling them to be quiet and get ready!)

Saturday, 8 days before Easter: Jesus walked to Bethany for a place to stay during Passover. See  John 12:1–3.
Song: Come, Follow Me
To do:  Point out that many people have traveled to Temple Square for the LDS General Conference (and we'll be watching or listening).  There is a great article on the symbolism of the Passover itself, by John Pratt; during our family scripture study we can talk about the symbolism.  There's a shorter summary in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

Sunday, one week before Easter: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey; the people greeted Him as their king, shouting Hosanna (Save Us Now) and paving his pathway with palm leaves.  Also known as Palm Sunday, for this reason.  See Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11.
Song: Joy to the World (really!  look at those lyrics!) or Easter Hosanna
To do Watch a Bible Video: The Lord's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem                   

Monday: Cleansing the temple, to make it more holy.  See Matthew 21:12–17; Mark 11:15–19.
Song: I Love to See the Temple, or The Lord Gave Me a Temple (or if you want to learn a less-familiar one, try God is In His Holy Temple)
To do: Each person find some place in their room that needs cleaned and organized- and take care of it!  Also, have a Family Home Evening & lesson. :-) 

Tuesday: He taught in the temple and on the Mount of Olives.  He healed the blind and lame.  Judas agreed with the priests to betray Him. SeeMatthew 25:31–46; 26:14–16.
Song: Jesus Said Love Everyone   
To Do: Pick some spring flowers and take them to someone sick, lonely, or bedridden.

Wednesday: We don't know what he did this day.  See Matthew 25:1–13.
Song: I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus, or Build An Ark
To Do: Reading the Parable of the Ten Virgins is one idea (illustrated version here), print this activity;  or learn more about the Passover that Christ was there to offer. 

Thursday: His disciples got ready for and ate the Passover meal.  This became what we call The Last Supper, he also gave them the sacrament for the first time.  After singing a hymn, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  After his Atonement there, the priests found and arrested him.  See Matthew 26:17–29, 36–56.
Song: I Stand All Amazed
To Do: At dinner, serve one or more of the traditional Passover foods.  You might even manage having a Seder plate and ask The Four Questions; that would require some advance studying!   Chabad.org is a great site for this.

Friday: He was questioned by Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, and condemned to die.  He was crucified, died, and hurriedly laid in a borrowed tomb.  In Jerusalem, the veil of the temple tore and there was darkness for three hours.  In the Americas, there was a terrible storm for three hours, followed by complete dark until the third day. See Matthew 26:57–72; 27:1–2, 27–37; Luke 23:44–46, 50–56, 3 Nephi 8:5-23.
Song: O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown, or There Is a Green Hill Far Away
To Do:  Have dinner by candlelight (yes, we'll have to shut the drapes because it's too light outside!) to remember the dark these people experienced.  Watch The Last Supper.
 Older children could watch Jesus Is Scourged and Crucified, but my littlest ones would be very disturbed by it.

Saturday
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Jesus' body lay in the tomb, the door covered with a large stone, guarded by order of the wicked priests.  In the Americas, it was still dark.  See Matthew 27:57–66  and 3 Nephi 9:12-22.
Song: To Think About Jesus      
To Do:  We have our Easter Egg hunt on Saturday-  to keep the "fluff stuff" away from the real holiday/holy-day.  

Easter Sunday: Jesus was resurrected!  An angel rolled the stone away, Mary Magdalene and others saw him.  He told them to teach and baptize others. See Matthew 28 Some time after His resurrection, he also visited the people in the Americas, see 3 Nephi 11:1-17.
Song: Christ the Lord is Risen Today
To Do: Watch the sunrise and think about the beauty of the earth and the sacrifices its Creator made for us.  Have each child and parent write a favorite scripture on the back of a small picture of Jesus.  Each person gives theirs to another  family member.  (Hopefully this encourages them to really think about which scripture to write!)      Watch all the Bible videos about the Savior's ministry.  

Some other meaningful Easter ideas can be found in the New Era magazine and  The Ensign

May we all have an Easter that helps connect us with family and our Savior!
 
 
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Apparently this was a popular cake for April Fools' Day back in the 1960's.   It tastes nothing like sauerkraut, and any bits you find in the cake resemble coconut.  (The white bits you see in this photo are hazelnuts I threw in.) The sauerkraut gives moisture to the cake, just like adding shredded carrots or zucchini would.   My mom is already planning to make this with just plain shredded cooked cabbage.

   I haven't tried the frosting recipe that comes with it; I was out of mayonnaise, and made a whipped ganache instead (8 oz. chocolate melted into 8 oz. whipping cream, cool to room temperature and whip it).  I imagine the mayo version tastes quite a lot like the chocolate-sour cream frosting I've had before- a little tangy and really delicious, only this recipe also calls for coconut and pecans....  mmm.


Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 9" cake pans. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix half of this into the sugar mixture.  Add 3/4 c. of the water, beat in, then beat in the rest of the dry ingredients.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined.  Fold in the sauerkraut and pecans, using a spoon or spatula.  Bake about 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a rack.

Frosting

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted (one 11-12 oz. bag)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
2/3 cup pecans, chopped

Whisk together the melted chocolate and the mayonnaise.  Set aside 2 cups of this.  Add 1/3 cup each of coconut and pecans to the remaining frosting to make the filling. 

Spread half of the filling on one cake layer, top with another cake layer, spread with the other half of filling, and put the last layer on top.  Frost the whole cake with the reserved 2 cups of frosting.  Press the last 1/3 cup each of coconut and pecans into the sides of the cake.  Refrigerate until time to serve. 

See here for another way to decorate and serve this cake!
 
 
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This stuff is like whipped satin....

and you only need two ingredients!

SO- my son is going to Prom this week, is short on cash, and decided he wouldn't be too mortified to have dinner with his date at our house.  Originally they were planning on eating at The Cheesecake Factory, so he and I looked through their online menu to get some good dinner ideas.   He had asked her ahead of time what any favorite foods or allergies she has, wrote down a few options, illustrated it (the dessert section, anyway), and gave it to his date to make her selections.   One of the desserts that sounded good is a chocolate mousse cheesecake; a chocolate cheesecake topped with something called "Bavarian Mousse".  I was intrigued.  Bavarian cream is something I've eaten, but mousse?  I searched online and found a recipe that is at least from Europe.  I converted it from grams to standard measurements and made a trial batch.  It was so good I ate half of it, then gave the other half to a favorite friend, who thought it was incredible.  You can use any type of chocolate chips; my batch was made with semisweet.  Hershey's chips are a little grainy; my favorites are Guittard and Ghirardelli. 
I think a white chocolate version would be beautiful with a little drizzle of melted raspberry preserves on it.

Bavarian Mousse
3/4 c. chocolate chips (or about 3 1/2 ounces chocolate)
4 eggs, separated

Melt the chocolate chips in a medium bowl or in a double boiler.  Beat in the egg yolks and a pinch of salt.  Set aside.

In a completely grease-free bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold about a third of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold the remaining whites in.  Refrigerate two hours to set up.  You can spoon or pipe this into serving dishes either before or after chilling, but it will hold its shape better after setting up.  Makes about 3 cups.


YES, this is made with raw eggs, which can be safe, or on occasion can have salmonella.  The way to prepare this safely is to use perfect eggs without even hairline cracks.  Wash and dry them, then use in this recipe. 

The reason behind this is that the inside of an egg is a sterile environment.  The salmonella, if present, is on the outside of the shell.  If there is any sort of crack, however, the bacteria can enter the egg and grow if conditions are right.  So- use raw if the eggs have no cracks- even minor ones- and have been washed.    I learned this from Alice Waters' mousse recipe; she says they've served raw egg mousse for years in her restaurant (Chez Panisse), with nary a sickness from it.
 
 
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My first-grade son needs a sea turtle costume...  and my daughter needs to be a (green?) mermaid the day before that.

We parents were told that the turtles need a long-sleeved green shirt, and either green leggings or green tights. 

Green tights seemed impractical - would I use them again?  He wouldn't!  And green leggings... well, same problem.  Besides, I didn't find either of them at the store.  I got thinking that maybe I'd just buy some green fabric and make them-

and then I stumbled across some way-too-big t-shirts on clearance, $2 apiece.  I looked at their long cuffed sleeves, and it hit me- they're the right size for small-boy-legs!  So, here's what I did.   I'll probably add a sparkly green posterboard tail to make it a mermaid.
If the elastic instructions are confusing, you can just make a regular casing and thread elastic through it.  Cut the elastic 1/2" longer for the casing method.  When you apply elastic the way I did in the slide show, the elastic is permanently stretched a little bit, requiring a tiny bit less length.
 
 
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 A little of this, and a little of that... to make a brightly flavored salad! 

There are a couple ways to make this, depending on what you have on hand.

2 (29-oz) cans of sliced or cubed peaches, preferably in light syrup or juice
1/4 c. instant clear jel (like Ultra Gel)*
6-8 drops lemon essential oil *
6 oz. (1 cup) fresh blueberries


Combine the juice or syrup from the cans,  clear jel, and essential oil.  Whisk together until slightly thickened- it will thicken more within the next 5-10 minutes.  Stir in peaches and blueberries.  Flavor improves the longer it sits, but it's good right away, too.

Makes 8-10 servings. 

*If you don't have instant clear jel on hand- first, I recommend it!  You don't have to heat it to get it to thicken food.  I use it in sauces, fruit glazes, pie fillings, puddings, salad dressings, jam, cold soups (you can use it in hot soups, but flour and cornstarch are cheaper), frostings, and more-  you can substitute 1/4 c. flour instead, or 2 Tbsp. cornstarch.  Whisk it in to the juice, then bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often.  Let cool a few minutes so it doesn't cook the blueberries.

Another option is to use a 4-serving-size package of instant lemon pudding in place of the clear jel and lemon oil.  The pudding is essentially instant clear jel + sugar + flavors and colors.

This is good with all kinds of fruit.  Try it with apple, orange sections, mango, banana, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, apricot...
Frozen fruit works as well, but frozen blueberries will release their juices and turn the whole salad purple.  Just so you know.
 
 
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Branches of some plants can be ‘forced’, or made to bloom indoors before they’d bloom outdoors.  Good ones for this include forsythia (pictured), pussy willow, quince, spirea, flowering crab apple, flowering cherry, lilac and dogwood.



-Cut the stems at a 45 degree angle to improve the stem’s ability to uptake water.  To help this even more, make some vertical splits on the bottom 1” of the stem; smashing that part with a hammer will do the same thing. 
-Put  the stems in a vase of water right away, trimming off any buds that would be below water level; they make the water spoil faster.
-Keep it out of direct sunlight, and change the water every 2-3 days so it doesn’t grow bacteria.  You could also use flower preservative (still changing the water at least once a week); a homemade version is below. 

The flowers should bloom in about three weeks, depending on how close to blooming they were when cut.  If you cut them about a week before normal bloom time, they’ll only take 2-3 days to bloom inside.

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To learn when to prune a forsythia (or other spring bloomers), see the post from 04/09/12, Pruning Forsythia or Lilac Bushes.